There are barriers to fasting lipid screening for at-risk children. Results of studies in adults have suggested that lipid testing might be reliably performed without fasting.


To examine population-level differences in pediatric lipid values based on length of fast before testing.


We used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999–2008) to examine total cholesterol (TC), HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and triglyceride cholesterol components on the basis of the period of fasting. Young children fasted for varying times before being tested, and children older than 12 years were asked to fast; however, adherence was variable. We used ordinary least-squares regression to test for differences in lipid values that were based on fasting times, controlling for weight status, age, race, ethnicity, and gender.


TC, HDL, LDL, or triglyceride values were available for 12 744 children. Forty-eight percent of the TC and HDL samples and 80% of the LDL and triglyceride samples were collected from children who had fasted ≥8 hours. Fasting had a small positive effect for TC, HDL, and LDL, resulting in a mean value for the sample that was 2 to 5 mg/dL higher with a 12-hour fast compared with a no-fast sample. Fasting time had a negative effect on triglycerides (β = −0.859; P = .02), which resulted in values in the fasting group that were 7 mg/dL lower.


Comparison of cholesterol screening results for a nonfasting group of children compared with results for a similar fasting group resulted in small differences that are likely not clinically important. Physicians might be able to decrease the burden of childhood cholesterol screening by not requiring prescreening fasting for these components.

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